As the crowd on Ross's Landing counted down the final seconds, the world's No. 2-ranked competitive eater sealed his first-place spot by shoving another burger in his mouth before time ran out.
"I was born not having to chew my food," said competition winner Patrick Bertoletti. "I have the stomach capacity of a bear."
The sun beamed down at the 15th annual Southern Brewers Festival in downtown Chattanooga as a large crowd gathered to watch as Mr. Bertoletti -- known as "Deep Dish" -- took first place earning 67 points in the Krystal Square Off VI Qualifier.
"We're very excited to kick off the year here in the hometown of Krystal," said Kenny Hammontree, Krystal manager of marketing promotions. "Professional eating is an art form, and these eaters are masters of it."
The seven-city tour of the competition began in Chattanooga on Saturday and qualifying events will continue in several states until the final round returns to the same spot on Sept. 27, Mr. Hammontree said.
After Mr. Bertoletti won the first round, he earned a seat at the final table and a chance to compete for the $50,000 total cash purse prize.
Curious spectators joined the audience from the brewers' festival, which featured four Tennessee breweries, including Big River Grille and Brewing Works, and more than 20 others from nearby states.
Garrett Smith visiting from Huntsville, Ala., stopped sampling beer long enough to watch the competition.
"This should be interesting," Mr. Smith said, admitting he did not know what to expect as a first-timer.
After the timer began, eaters had two new rules that added some challenges to the competition.
Krystal Corp. eliminated dunking during the competition, which in the past allowed the eaters to dunk the Krystals in liquid before eating, Mr. Hammontree said.
Also competitors were given five Big Angus burgers -- each worth five points -- to eat along with the Krystals, he said.
"No dunking will slow (competitors) down," Mr. Hammontree said.
Mr. Bertoletti said he and other eaters had no complaints with the new rules.
"The no dunking levels the playing feel," he said. "And the Big Angus is a tasty burger."
Top five winners:
1. Pat Bertoletti -- 67 Krystal Burger Points (42 Krystals, 5 Big Angus)
2. Wild Bill Myers -- 34 Krystal Burger Points (9 Krystals, 5 Big Angus)
3. Rick Petralia -- 31 Krystal Burger Points (6 Krystals, 5 Big Angus)
4. Chef Mike -- 30 Krystal Burger Points (5 Krystals, 5 Big Angus)
5. Tom Knopp -- 29 Krystal Burger Points (4 Krystals, 5 Big Angus)
Some eaters were hindered by the five larger burgers, including one of the oldest competitors, Paul Barlow, known as "Super Paul."
At age 53, Mr. Barlow tried to tackle all five of the big Angus burgers and used all his energy in the process. He finished in sixth place after only eating one Krystal in addition to the five burgers.
"I'm shooting for second place, but I'll settle for coming out alive and healthy," Mr. Barlow said before the competition began.